Taking Business to School: Grand Forks Public Schools & Northrop Grumman

In collaboration with ACTE, Xello supports career and technical education (CTE) professionals in the development of Taking Business to School. This new series of publication briefs explores topics within ACTE’s Quality CTE Program of Study Framework: Business and Community Partnerships. Techniques encourages readers to consider how these resources can influence business-education partnership success in CTE.

Taking Business to School: Grand Forks & Northrop Grumman

Grand Forks - Northrop Grumman (1)

This third publication in ACTE and Xello’s Taking Business to School series highlights a business and education partnership between Northrop Grumman and Grand Forks Public Schools. The aerospace and defense company persists in its dedication to supporting education and workforce development in communities wherever it places a site. As a result, students engage in real-world career exploration activities and gain valuable, hands-on experience prior to graduation.

In 2017, Northrop Grumman opened The Grand Sky Unmanned Aerial Systems Business and Aviation Park. It’s the first commercial park of its kind in the country. Unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or drones, represent a [something about growing industry]. And location is key. The U.S. Air Force operates a group of Global Hawk autonomous aircraft from the nearby Grand Forks air base. In conjunction, Northrop Grumman’s development of Grand Sky positioned the region nicely to become a hub for the UAS industry.

Grand Sky site director Mike Fridolfs credited “the region’s strong academic institutions” — at least in part — for Northrop Grumman’s decision to build this groundbreaking facility in North Dakota.

Business and education partnerships support STEM education.

Northrop Grumman understands the value of investing in education. “As the Grand Sky facility was being developed, the company also began developing business and education partnerships,” wrote Meghan Wills, workforce policy consultant and author of the Taking Business to School series. The goal? “To support STEM education in the community and collaborate to develop a local workforce with skills needed for the UAS field.”

“Early on, Northrop Grumman reached out to the region’s secondary and postsecondary education institutions to get to know local education leaders and identify STEM education partnership opportunities.” Then, when Grand Sky opened in 2017, students began to engage directly with industry professionals. GFPS students benefit from unique opportunities to participate in national STEM education initiatives, including robotics challenges and mentorship.

Wills continued, “Grand Forks CTE was initially interested in developing a robotics program because they knew it would enhance the existing engineering curriculum. They also knew that robotics students could develop knowledge to prepare them for entry into the region’s growing UAS industry. Through the VEX Robotics program, students develop valuable real-world skills, regardless of whether they plan to pursue STEM careers.

Business and education partnerships support student success.

In addition to sponsoring students’ technical endeavors, Northrop Grumman also demonstrates a commitment to helping them succeed overall. The High School Involvement Partnership (HIP) offers a two-year mentorship program for high school juniors and seniors interested in STEM. Through this program, students:

  • Learn more about the education and skills necessary for careers in STEM
  • Participate in virtual and in-person sessions to develop STEM content knowledge
  • Receive mentoring and support from Northrop Grumman employees
  • Complete a capstone project with real-world implications (A recent project challenged students to design and build an unmanned aerial aircraft that could carry a payload and complete specific tasks.)

Opportunities like these — business-education partnerships like that in Grand Forks — offer big dividends. Increasing investments in technology education, in rural areas, will increase access to STEM careers nationwide. Thus also ensuring a strong and safe economic future.

Read Taking Business to School: Grand Forks Public Schools & Northrop Grumman to learn more.